Daily Breakdown: Gophers open up as two-touchdown favorites over Miami of Ohio

Miami (OH) opened their season with two straight losses.

Max Biegert

The Gophers jumped off to a quick start in their 2018 campaign with wins against New Mexico State and Fresno State. 

This week Minnesota (2-0) will battle Miami of Ohio from the Mid-American Conference. The RedHawks have opened up their season 0-2. In their opening game, they lost to Marshall 28-35, and last week they were shutout by Cincinnati 21-0. Last year, Miami finished with a record of 5-7. 

When Minnesota runs the ball: 

Redshirt senior Rodney Smith left Saturday’s game in the first quarter with a left leg injury and on Monday it was confirmed that he will miss the remainder of the season. The Gophers will be left to fill the shoes of a player who was 38 yards short of eclipsing 3,000 career total yards. 

The man who took on this responsibility on Saturday was true freshman Bryce Williams, who rushed for 87 yards on 25 carries. The original back-up, Mohamed Ibrahim, was inactive last week because of a leg injury, leaving Jonathan Femi-Cole to be Williams’ back-up. Minnesota has rushed for 427 yards through its last two games. 

Expect to see tight end/quarterback Seth Green once the ball is near the goal line. He has punched the ball into the end zone four times this season. He is a weapon near the goal line and with the injuries that have hampered the Gophers, they may rely heavily on the redshirt junior.  

Miami rushed for 59 yards last week against Cincinnati on 19 attempts. Through two games, the RedHawks’ rushing defense has allowed 359 yards on the ground. Cincinnati only attempted 11 passes and had 51 carries for 188 yards against them last week.  

Matchup to watch: Bryce Williams vs. Junior McMullen, linebacker

Advantage: Minnesota 

When Miami runs the ball: 

The Redhawks have rushed for 146 yards in the first two games of the season. Their leading rusher is Kenny Young with 44 yards on 10 carries. Alonzo Smith leads the team with 15 carries. 

The RedHawks have averaged 23 rushing attempts per game, in comparison with their average of 44 passing attempts per game. 

Minnesota’s rushing defense has been stout, holding opponents to 63 rushing yards per game. The previous two teams they have played are more pass-heavy, and that will continue with the RedHawks coming to Minneapolis. 

Matchup to watch: linebacker Blake Cashman vs. running back Alonzo Smith 

Advantage: Minnesota

When Minnesota throws the ball:

True freshman walk-on quarterback Zack Annexstad has impressed in the first two starts of his career, including leading an eventual game-winning drive against Fresno State. What has also improved for the Gophers has been the the play on the outside from receivers Tyler Johnson, freshman Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell. 

Bateman had five catches for 78 yards and Johnson had six catches for 50 yards in the game against Fresno State. Autman-Bell has six catches for 74 yards in the season. 

The Redhawks have allowed 317 yards through the air this year and have yet to intercept a pass. 

Matchup to watch: Wide receiver Rashod Bateman vs. defensive back Deondre Daniels

Advantage: Minnesota 

When Miami throws the ball: 

The RedHawks have thrown the ball 87 times, connecting on 47 of those throws for 496 yards. Quarterback Gus Ragland has three touchdowns this year on one interception. Last season he threw for 2,032 yards, and the season before he threw for 1,537 yards. In his career he has thrown for 42 touchdowns. 

He threw for 357 yards against Marshall, but threw for 139 against Cincinnati. The RedHawks’ best receiver is James Gardner, who had seven receptions last week for 80 yards. 

Minnesota’s passing defense has held opponents to an average of 222 yards per game. They have three interceptions through the first two games. 

Matchup to watch: Cornerback Terell Smith vs. wide receiver James Garner 

Advantage: Minnesota

Prediction: 

Minnesota 28, Miami 13 

Minnesota is the superior team in this matchup. If the Gophers can stay away from mistakes such as turning the ball over, they should be able to handle the RedHawks. 

If the Gophers are able to stay on track, it would not be surprising for Minnesota to emerge with the victory.

Everything else you need to know: 

Start time: 2:30 p.m. CDT

Network: Big Ten Network

Radio: KFAN 100.3

Line: Minnesota -14